Canvas Art: Little Teepees and

Dyeing fabric red


Freshly Dyed Silkfresh Dyed Silk

Dyeing with Cochineal,
or
The Author as Alchemist

To anyone who loves color as far as I do, the dyer's art seems like pure magic. Exactly how else to explain the alchemy that transforms drab cloth into banners of blazing red, subdued purple, and shimmering blue and green? On paper A Perfect Red, I experienced to be able to discover a few of the mysteries of shade at first-hand — as well as discover various alchemists' secrets along the way.


My Grandfather working

I will be the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of dyers, but when I began looking into the annals of cochineal, our familiarity with the dyer's art was woefully threadbare. Tie-dyeing T-shirts and creating fancy Easter eggs was the limitation of my expertise. Yet the more I discovered dyers and dyeing, the greater i desired to understand.

My Grandfather at Work"The dier... in smoke, and heate doth toile, / Mennes fickle mines to please, " operates a Renaissance poem. I wanted to have the smoke therefore the heat additionally the steam and also the scent for the dyer's workshop. That which was it choose to dunk the dull material to the simmering cooking pot, then carry the sodden fabric away once again, high in dazzling color?

To better understand the dyer's art, I made the decision to use my hand at making a Drebbel scarlet, a color that numerous people inside seventeenth and eighteenth hundreds of years considered a fantastic red. It absolutely was named for the discoverer, Cornelis Drebbel, a Dutch inventor and alchemist whom lived in London in the early 1600s.

The IngredientsBased on some stories, Drebbel's development was a total accident, caused by some tin and aqua regia falling into a bowl of water colored with cochineal. But we think Drebbel really found this new dye during their alchemy experiments. Tin and aqua regia (a variety of nitric and hydrochloric acids) were often found in alchemy. Alchemists caused red dyestuffs like cochineal, also, because red ended up being colour associated with fabled philosopher's rock — the mythical substance that was likely to transmute base metals into silver and bestow endless life on its creator.

Nonetheless he found it, Drebbel's scarlet dye was sensationally bright, producing probably the most brilliant red cloth previously observed in European countries. With further experimentation, Drebbel seemingly have discovered that one of the keys ingredients were tin and cochineal, combined when you look at the presence of an acid. (Aqua regia, because it occurred, was too powerful an acid for dyeing cloth — it had a tendency to consume away during the textile — but other, much weaker acids turned out to be efficient.) Based on the English chemist Robert Boyle, this new cochineal dye produced "an ideal Scarlet."

Because of the mid-1600s, other European master dyers had figured out Drebbel's key, as well as used tin, cochineal, and acid compounds in several formulations to produce a range of luminous scarlets, from a-deep cherry red to an eye-popping neon shade. The essential brilliant reds had been "full of fire, " based on one observer, "as well as a brightness which dazzles the eye."

A Family of Alchemists Mortar and Pestle Including Cochineal to Water Adding Silk to the Dyepot

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